October 04, 2011

Card Translations!

Help us to fly higher! With your contribution, you are helping Manuel Guzman Rodriguez!
This shoe shiner, being the eldest of three children, worked to provide parents with their home, as he feels a commitment to help support his family. He entered Muchachos y Muchachas con Don Bosco in 2005 and to this day the space is always present to learn as the 6th course. grade at the miraculous. His dream is to be a baseball player and get to the majors and give his mother everything she deserves.
Thanks to your contribution, Manuel and many children like him, will fly higher, giving them the opportunity to have a healthy life.

Help us to fly higher! With your contribution, you are helping  Paola Michell Sanchez Rojas. Paola Michell is an incredible 13 year old girl who was sad and quiet when she arrived at the center With the support of teachers and staff of Muchachos y Muchachas con Don Bosco. Today, Paola is very cheerful, safe and healthy. Her great spirit of service make her a valuable girl to all who know her. Paola is also a dreamer who laughs, play and enjoys life.
Thanks to your contribution, Paola and many children like her will fly higher, giving them the opportunity to have a healthy life.

Help us to fly higher! With your contribution, you are helping Ayendi Fernandez Santana.
Ayendi entered Muchachos y Muchachas con Don Bosco through "friends of Dominic Savio." At first, Ayendi isolated himself constantly but slowly overcame his fear to become a faithful participant and motivator in all he does. Ayendi is a child with a big heart who works weekends shining shoes to help his parents. His dream is to become a doctor and help others and, as he says, "to have a life free of disease."
During the week, Ayendi participates in dance and soccer. Ayendi never stops thinking about the future, so he studies hard and began his 8th grade basic education courses. Thanks to your contribution, Ayendi and many children like him will fly higher, giving them the opportunity to have a healthy life.

Help us to fly higher! With your contribution, you are helping Genesis Terrero.
Genesis entered Muchachos y Muchachas con Don Bosco in 2004 and is now in the sixth grade.She’s a girl who dreams of becoming a manager and a painter, because she likes to express herself artistically with drawings. Since she entered the program as a quiet girl, who is now playful, cheerful and obedient, always giving lessons in courtesy. Thanks to your contribution, Genesis and many children like her are going to fly higher, giving them also the chance of having a healthy life.

Help us to fly higher! With your contribution you are helping Ana Josefa Chaplain.
Ana Josefa entered  Muchachos y Muchachas con Don Bosco center through "friends of Dominic Savio." Currently 12 years of age, she is a very active and dedicated to educational programs. She takes every chance she has to learn and also help others to do so. Her dream is to become a teacher and help children learn new things. This incredible child  just been promoted with outstanding marks in the 7th grade. Ana Josefa plays on the volleyball team and participates in the dance program. Thanks to your contribution, Ana Josefa and many children like her are going to fly higher, giving them also the chance of having a healthy life.

June 15, 2011

...Dark Roast

The Dominican Republic is known for their coffee. As it very should be! It is delicious! When I go back to the United States, I am going to be soooo spoiled. After all, for the past four years, I've lived in college residence halls, where the basically the only readily available and easily accessable coffee was the burnt-sludge you'd choked down in order to get through those morning (or afternoon...orevening...) classes and late-night cram sessions.

My only complaint about the coffee here is how it is served. Coffee is presented in what I call a shot-glass mug. It absolutely cracks the locals up to see Kristen and myself drinking out of an actual mug filled with coffee. They think we are crazy. They also can´t understand how people could possibly drink coffee without about a cup of sugar per each ounce of liquid. Sometimes when Kristen and I are being served the beverage,we have to resist the temptation to ask if we could please have a little more coffee with our sugar.

I have always enjoyed the taste of coffee. Even as a kid, I would sneak sips from my mom´s mug (Sorry mom!). But after living in the DR for almost five months, I have witnessed the incredible amount of labor that needs to occur before I indulge in this daily habit of coffee drinking.

The entire process of making coffee is a much more complex process than I have ever imagined. It is difficult for me to believe my own ignorance about where coffee comes from has lasted this long.

 A coffee bean is actually the seeds of a cherry-like fruit. Coffee trees produce berries, called coffee cherries, that turn bright red when they are ripe and ready to pick. Coffee is harvested each year during the dry season. During this time, the coffee cherries are bright red, glossy, and firm. The first step in the process is carefully picking each cherry. The ripe cherries are harvested by hand. If the cherry is picked up to early it will lack of essential sweetness, but if the cherry is picked up to late it will be sour, thus, the picking of the cherries needs to be done carefully and selectively.

Immediately after being picked, the it is time for processing. This can be done in one of two ways. The first way is by the Dry method, where the cherries are spread out and left to dry by sunlight. The drying process lasts typically 7-10 days. During this time, the outer shell of the cherries turns brown and the beans rattle around inside.

The second method used is called the wet method. With this method, a pulping machine washes away the skin and pulp. The beans are put in fermentation tanks for 12 to 48 hours while the coffee to release all the honey remaining from the pulp. The beans are then dried, either by the sun or by mechanical dryers.

After using one of these two methods, the third step is washing the coffee beans. The beans are placed in large tanks filled with water pressure, which leaves the beans with no honey leftovers. It also separates the coffee beans by quality, the beans that float are the low quality beans and the ones that are in the bottom of the tank are the good quality beans. The beans are sorted by size, then by density. The different beans are either sorted by hand as they pass by on a conveyer belt or by an air jet that separates lighter (inferior) beans from heavier ones.

The last step roasting the coffee. In this process is where the roaster will decide the taste of the batch of coffee being roasted. The beans are heated in large, rotating drums using temperatures of about 550 F The beans first turn a yellowish color. After about 8 minutes, the beans "pop" and double in size. The beans then begin to brown as the oils within them start to emerge. This oil is called coffee essence or caffeol. The chemical reaction of the heat and coffee essence is called pyrolysis, and is what produces the flavor and aroma of coffee. A second "pop" occurs about three to five minutes later and signals that the bean is fully roasted.

There is truly an art to coffee roasting. Sound, sight and smell are all used to determine when the beans are roasted to perfection. Timing is crucial, as it affects the color and flavor of the final brew, so the length of the roasting period depends on the type of coffee desired. For American brew, the roasting process is shorter. For expresso, longer.  All of this needs to be done before the coffee beans are finally ground.
Ísn´t it amazing? How all of these steps are nessesary to follow before the coffee can be consumed. So the next time you drag yourself out of bed to the coffee machine or drive to the nearest Starbucks for a pick me up, please remember all those who labor for this taken for granted luxury.

 Information gathered by first hard experience, HowStuffWorks.com and CoffeeResearch.org

June 14, 2011

...Descriptive Rhymes

Two entries, two days in a row! Aren´t you lucky! I wanted to share a poem that my Grandpa Krzysik sent to me before beginning my experience in the Dominican Republic.  I keep this poem on my closet door and found it has lifted my spirits on many occasions.

Only You
No one on earth
Exists quite like you
And no one is able
To do what you do
The person you are
The talents you bear
Gifts that only
You can share
Only you have learned
From the things you've done
Gaining perspective
From the battles you've won
Times when you've lost
Have been priceless too
The lessons contribute
To what makes you you
The rest of the world
Can't see through your eyes
Which is why your insight
Is such a prize
Because you are you
The lives you affect
Much more than you
Would ever expect
The things you do
The things you say
Send ripples throughout
The Milky Way
You're unique, amazing
Like no one else
You have the exclusive
On being yourself

I also included a few of my favorite quotes, which I look to as a reminder of why I am here. Enjoy!

 When the deepest part of you becomes engaged in what you are doing, when what you are doing serves both yourself and others, when you do not tire within, but seek the sweetest satisfaction of your life and work, then you know that you are doing what you are meant to be doing. (Gary Zukov)

 Christian love of neighbor and justice cannot be separated. For love implies an absolute demand for justice, namely a recognition of the dignity and rights of one's neighbor. Justice attains its inner fullness only in love. Because every person is truly a visible image of the invisible God and a sibling of Christ, the Christian finds in every person God himself and God's absolute demand for justice and love. (John Paul II. Justice in the World, #34)

Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson

As he prayed he saw the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them…he cried, “God, how is it that you can see such things and yet do nothing about them?” God said, “I did do something. I made you.” –Author Unknown.

Every night ask yourself - what has this day brought me, and what have I given it?

June 13, 2011

...Delicious Rice

A very large part of adjusting to the ways of life and culture here has been trying to change the basic eating habits my body was used to. In my situation, because of where I live and work, along with how my meals are provided, All of my meals are pretty much out of my control. Something like eating when you are hungry and portion control is something people take for granted. Here not so much. Don´t get me wrong, I am forever grateful for those here who have so generously taken on the task of hosting Kristen and I. But the American body (or at least my body) is used to certian things. A certain intake of fruits and vegetables for instance. One of my favorite foods is salad. Yeah, I know. Sounds lame and very typical girly-like, but you haven't seen my salads. Ask all of my friends from college. Not only are my salads huge, but I have been known to get every food group on my salad at any given salad bar. So, needless to say, up until this year, my body had gotten used to a whole lot of vegetables.
Here in the DR, there are four major food groups: You have your milk group (cheese), then you have your vegetables (potatoes), grains (rice), and then of course you have your fruits (bananas). Add the occasional red beans and bread, mix in some occassional questionable meat, and TA-DA. You have the basic Dominican diet. But I do enjoy the food here, very much in fact. Sometimes though, the lack of variety reeks havoc on my body.
One thing that was introduced to me here, something seemingly common that I had never before heard of is Kong-Kong. Kong Kong, as it is known here, is the rice stuck to the bottom of the pot after it is cooked. A very weird concept, but the best way to describe it is a crunchy/ chewy rice usually served at the end of the meal. For whatever reason, is really good. It probably isn´t too healthy, based only on the fact that I really like it. When my parents were visiting, I introduced them to the dish and they enjoyed it as well. I´ve heard that Kong Kong may goes by other names around the world, so I´d be interested in knowing if any of you has ever heard of this dish.

May 30, 2011

...Dead Reburied

So, I promised in my last update that my next entry would be about the experience that I had going to Padre Pancho´s mother house to commemorate the anniversary of his fathers death. I wish I could say that I am making this entry up, I really do. But, like many things that I have experienced here...you just can't make this stuff up.

Kristen and I were woken up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning to make the three hour trip. I'm more accustomed to long car rides than I would like to be. My entire extended family lives (or at least used to live) in and around Chicago, so growing up in Appleton, Wisconsin, it was a three hour car ride every Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Graduation, Baptism, First Communion, occasional long weekend and birthday. Also, I went to college three hours away from home, so I`m used to making such trips. However, one thing about traveling in the good old United States of America is that the roads are PAVED. And for the most part, even with Wisconsin´s never ending construction season, relatively smooth. Here, the paved roads are few and far between. Even gravel roads are scarce. For the majority of the route to Pancho's mothers, we drive on dirt, around giant pot holes, and even through the occasional stream, brook, or low river. Thus, this particular journey requires a sports bra and Dramamine. But it is what it is. We arrived at the house with only a minor case of whiplash and began meeting the endless stream of Pancho's siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews. Kristen and I ate some sancocho (a very common food here. Basically a stew type thing.) before helping set up for the mass which was to be held on the porch.

A large table was set up to be used as an alter, with lawn chairs surrounding it. The mass began with about fifty people in attendance. In the center of the alter was a large wooden box, about 18 in by 1in. with a cross carved on top. After beginning the mass with a prayer and a short explanation of the significance of the day, Padre Pancho walks to the alter, leans over and carefully removes the lid of the box.

Immediately, all of those around the alter begin to edge forward, leaning over in an attempt to get a glimpse of the contents of the box. A few of members of Pancho's family step forward, peer into the box and place their hands on the contents. Meanwhile, everyone else present, (save for me, Kristen, and Raphael) crowd in, waiting fortheir turn to see.

Witnessing this entire process take place, I began to formulate several guesses as to what the box contained. But, truth be told, I wasn´t all that sure I wanted to know, much less see for myself. However, my curiosity heightened when cameras began appearing. Within minutes of unveiling the box, cameras were flashing in every direction. So I thought to myself, I can't possibly be right about the contents of the box...could I?
After a few minutes, I turned to Kristen and whispered, "Um, are they looking at...um". Staring straight ahead she answered, "I don't want to know"..

The mass continued, with the occasional guest making his or her way forward for a looksies or the random flashing of a camera. Then, in his concluding remarks, Padre Pancho invited everyone to come forward once more to pay their respects. I glanced at Kristen, who just shook her head. But I had to confirm my suspicions. I inched forward, bracing myself for what I may see. Taking a deep breath, I leaned over and peered inside. The box contained, just as I had suspected. There I was, looking at the actual the bones of Padre Pancho's father. This was definitely one of those moments in life when you are forced to stop yourself and try to absorb the situation.  The mass concluded and people began to to disperse. Needing a few answers for my questions, I approached Raphael and inquired, "So, what's with the bones...?" He laughed, shook his head and said, "You know, I was wondering the same thing myself."
But as it turns out, there was an legitimate explanation. At least, as legitimate a reason that possible for a box of bones. Padre Pancho's father passed away 16 years ago. Like many Latin American countries, the dead are buried above ground in a crypt.. There is a cultural mindset that the dead should not be buried underground. (I can't be sure on the reason behind this mindset). So, when Padre's Pancho's father passed away, the family could not afford to put him in a crypt. Thus, it was necessary to bury him underground until enough money was saved up. This day happened to be the 16th anniversary of the father's death, hence the unveiling of the bones at the memorial mass. Like I keep saying, you can't make this stuff up.

May 18, 2011

...Digestive Rebellion

(Okay, I know, I know, the title is questionable. And you are probably considering exiting out of this Blog for fear that I will reveal more than anyone could ever want to know about me. But don´t worry...The entry won't be as bad as it may sound...)

 The topic of this particular entry is due to the unfortunate fact that after mangaging to live the past nine+ in developing countries without serious incident, I have recently survived my first (and God willing, the last) bout encounter with Food Poisoning. Yes, capital F, capital P. The very large probability that I would eat something bad while here has always been something I have feared. I mean, being sick is bad enough. And being really sick without your mom there to take care of you...well, that just plain sucks.

 It all began with a trip to Padre Pancho's mom's house (Padre Pancho is a priest here who is kind of a big deal. Everyone knows him. So by association, Kristen and I are as well!)  Being invited to his house is an honor. Which is the reason Kristen and I found ourselves waking up at 5:30 am on a Sunday, which happens to be our only day off,  to make the three hour journey down the treacherous road to the local priest's home village. The Delgados (my host family here), Kristen and I had been asked to join in the mass and gathering of Padre Pancho´s family (Oh, he is one of 15, did I mention?) to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the death of Padre Pancho's father...(Incidently, this experience has caused the creation of the next blog enttry...). Anyway, as it turns out, having a large amount of food at family gatherings is a universal custom.

So, after being surrounded by many of Pancho's family members in an enclosed area, and head hurting from trying to make small talk in Spanish, when the food was ready, I helped myself to an overflowing plate of rice, potato salad, coleslaw, and shredded chicken-- which looked particularly delicious...And then, I went back for seconds.

It didn't begin right away...Everyone was so full from the food at Padre Pancho's that none us had any dinner. I woke up early Monday morning, my digestive system much more, um, active than usual. Still, I didn't think anything of it. My stomach didn't feel all that great as I spent the typical Monday morning trying to pay attention in meetings, but again, I didn't think anything of it. Going to the convent for lunch, I wasn't particularly hungry and after I managed to eat a tiny bit, my stomach, once again, began to make its presence known. But, through all of this, I felt relatively fine and finished out the work day.

It was during my and Kristen's daily 3 mile run that I started to feel like something wasn't quite right. Within the first few running steps, I felt each movement of my throbbing joints. Perhaps I should have stopped immediately, but I tend to push myself, and managed to make it through two miles before stopping. I walked the last mile, choked down some dinner, and attempted to shower. When the water against my skin was too painful to bear, I put myself to bed before 8 pm. The rest of the night remains a blur. I should have recognized how sick I was when I woke up in the middle of the night at opened my eyes to "see" a pillow-sized cockroach in my room, and my only reaction was to close my eyes and go back to sleep. What should have tipped me off to the fact that I was hallucinating, was not the appearance of a pillow sized cockroach staring at me, but the fact that my only reaction was to go back to sleep.

I honestly do not remember ever being that sick in my entire life. I realize now, after the fact, I should have gone to the doctor. Probably even the hospital. But I was so sick that I didn't even realize how sick I was. I spent all of Tuesday in bed. Managing to hold down only a tiny bit of soup at five pm before returning to bed and staying there (with the exception of bathroom trips) until noon Wednesday. With the care of Kristen and my host mom, Marina, I was able to go back to work on Thursday, feeling 75%. And after about four hazy days, of which I will spare you the wonderful details, my body slowly began to make its way back to normal. And now, 7 days later. All I can say is that this past week has given significant and unwanted new meaning to the phrase, "This too shall pass".

Too much information? Sorry :)

May 04, 2011

...Daring Resilience

Being here and in Mexico for the a total of almost nine months thus  far has taught me so much more than how to become semi conversational in Spanish. I am SLOWLY gaining confidence in my ability to understand and speak Spanish. The process has been so much more difficult, exhausting, and LONGER than I had ever could have imagined it to be.
Each and everyday here is filled with new beginnings, new experiences, and several, okay, actually MANY new challenges. Nothing about this experience and journey has been very easy, but I have grown to understand that the seemingly constant challenges and obstacles are merely part of the process. Throughout the day I have to repeatedly remind myself that I have to let go of the fear I have and be willing to make mistakes. Because I know that the longer I hold on to that fear, the longer it will take to feel comfortable with the language.  Although there are times I feel like giving up, I am comforted by the love, prayers, and support that I know is being sent from my family and friends.  I am searching hard to try to maintain the sense of peace that I am where I am is where I am supposed to be at this moment in time. And so at the end of the day, remembering why I am here and trusting that God wants me here is what keeps me dedicated to my service and inspires me to work all that much harder. And it is the knowledge  that I have countless people who believe in me and support me in what I am doing here, that fills me with the strength courage that I need to continue this process.

I thought I would share some words of Oscar Romero which sum up what I am trying to express in this blog entry. I think he says it much better than I did...

Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.  Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.  No statement says all that could be said.  No prayer fully expresses our faith.  No confession brings perfection.  No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church's mission.  No set of goals and
obvjectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.  We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.  We lay foundations that will need further development.  We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.  we cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that. this enables us to do something, and to do it very well.  It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest